What's better in the Continuum season three opener: The badass action, or the explanations of the show's time travel mythos? They're both pretty great. Relive the awesome fight scene that blew our minds, and then read on for the time travel goodness. Spoilers ahead...
First up, some ground rules. I am recapping the show as it airs on Syfy in the U.S. This means we're going to be a few weeks behind Canada. The reason for this is pretty simple: io9 is based in the U.S., and most of our readers are located here, plus way more people watch the show on Syfy than on Showcase in general. When I tried recapping Continuum on the Canadian schedule, almost nobody read the recaps and it felt like a waste of time.
So if you're watching on the Canadian schedule, please refrain from posting spoilers for upcoming episodes. Also, if I speculate about what's coming up or mention questions that haven't been answered yet, please refrain from snarking about the fact that I would know these things if I was caught up to the Canadian timeline.
You Canadians are living in the future, and that's awesome, and I would appreciate it if you just enjoy your superior future knowledge with a quiet smile, and possibly a chin-stroke or two. Thank you!
So on to the episode...
The actual plot of "Minute to Minute" is pretty simple — Alec has used the time machine to go back in time one week, so he can save his girlfriend Emily from being shot and killed. Unfortunately, this means there are two Alecs a week ago — and no Alec in the timeline he left behind. Plus, Alec2 is making lots of changes to the timeline, including getting his father Escher and Kiera killed. (And somewhat jaw-droppingly, Emily is the one who shoots Escher.)
So the Freelancers, who had captured Kiera along with the Liber8 gang, decide to send Kiera back in time to stop Alec — although they can't send her to the exact moment when Alec went back, for reasons. Kiera resists and tries to escape with Garza, but after Garza is killed, she sees that the timeline is collapsing around her. So she agrees to go back, and arrives just in time to confront Alec over her own dead body.
There was so much great stuff in this episode, including the little glance that Kiera and Garza give each other in the clip above, which is enough to say "Let's team up, I'll take yours and you take mine." Their whole teamup is fantastic, and if there aren't a legion of Garza/Kiera shippers at this point, the internet has failed. Also, Alec revisiting his recent past and getting to see the girlfriend who died in front of him packs a huge emotional whallop. And watching Escher get his comeuppance? Also really nice.
So what did we learn about time travel in this episode? Let's run it down.
Every time you travel, you create a new branch of the timeline. Which means that when Kiera and the Liber8 gang vanished in 2077, they just disappeared. And none of their actions since then have affected the timeline they came from at all. We sort of suspected that, but now we know for sure.
If you travel back in time, you could meet yourself. And that would be bad. And now we know why the Freelancers were not in favor of Kiera's brilliant plan to travel forward in time to 2077, arrive just before she left, and stop time travel from happening. This would result in two Kieras running around, with potentially disastrous consequences for everybody. Also, this is why Kagame had to sacrifice his life on the day he was born — just to make sure he never met himself.
Major paradoxes cause everything to go blooey. When Alec goes back in time one week, he creates a new timeline in which there are two Alecs — but the timeline he left no longer has an Alec in it. And that creates a huge paradox, because Alec has to grow up to help invent the time machine and create Kiera's CPS suit and stuff. So no Alec means the universe basically eats itself, although no weird time pterodactyl things from Doctor Who show up. Makes me wonder what would have happened if Garza had managed to kill Alec last season.
The Liber8 crew haven't changed history that much. That's the implication I get from the Freelancers' chat with Kiera, anyway. They were locking up Kiera and the Liber8 people in cells to prevent them from causing huge changes to the timeline — but until now, the changes have been relatively minor. And that may be deliberate: Kagame gives his life to ensure that the bombing of that building happens the same way it always did, although presumably someone else blew it up in the original timeline. Kagame's whole chat with Alec about throwing a pebble and causing a tidal wave makes a bit more sense now — you don't want to throw a boulder, because you want the changes to be subtle at first. (Although I don't know that I'd call Travis' actions last season "subtle" exactly.)
The Freelancers don't time travel. This was one of the most interesting reveals of the episode — we had been left with the impression that the Freelancers were from the further future, and they were time travelers who used the timeline as a chessboard. But apparently, they avoid time traveling as much as possible, and just recruit people from each era. And they've been doing this for a thousand years already. They're sort of a cult, in Kiera's estimation, and they're dedicated to keeping the timeline stable — and apparently they have a gadget that allows them to visualize the "tree" of time.
There's a war going on. But we're not sure with whom yet — apparently there are time travelers from the years after 2077, and those people are criminals and opportunists. The Freelancers were created to stop those people. Which makes me wonder if we've met any of those other time-travelers yet, or if they have yet to appear. And what, exactly, their scheme is. Beyond that, of course, there's always the distinct possibility that the Freelancers are lying about everything.
Kiera has to kill one of the two Alecs. That's the implication I got from her comments to the Freelancers, and they didn't seem to disagree. There's no way to undo Alec's time travel to a week ago — which I think means Escher is really dead, huzzah — and the timeline Kiera and Alec jumped from is gone. The only way to "fix" Alec's time-travel shenanigans is to eliminate one of the two Alecs, and try to leave behind one Alec who will create the future that Kiera came from. (Because Kiera can only jump forward to the future of this new timeline, not her original timeline.)
Kiera is a freelancer now. At least, she has the dots tattooed between her fingers, and seems to be on the inside. Plus the Freelancers don't actually know what they told her, since the timeline where that happened is gone — they only know whatever's written on those dots.